Wales politics

Boris Johnson told he has 'no say' on the M4 relief road

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Media captionBoris Johnson: "We will unblock the Brynglas tunnels"

Boris Johnson has been told he has no say on building a new £1.6bn motorway to ease traffic congestion in south Wales after the prime minister promised he would build a "proper M4 bypass".

The M4 around Newport is often clogged at rush hour but Wales' first minister scrapped a relief road plan last year after declaring a climate emergency.

Mr Johnson said he would "do the things the Welsh Government has failed to do".

But the Welsh Government said the PM has "no say in the M4 relief road".

"It's an entirely devolved matter and the first minister has made his decision," a spokesperson said.

The stretch of M4 around Newport is Wales' busiest stretch of road.

Before lockdown, there was daily traffic congestion around the bottleneck at the Brynglas tunnels.

'Nostrils of the Welsh dragon'

Mr Johnson spoke about the M4 in the House of Commons after a UK minister claimed a new Ineos vehicle plant in Bridgend was put on hold because the relief road was axed.

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Media captionThe route the M4 relief road would have taken around Newport

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said Welsh ministers' "inability" to upgrade the road "influenced the Ineos decision".

The claim was dismissed by the Labour-run Welsh Government, with Economy Minister Ken Skates saying the suggestion was "nothing more than nonsense on stilts".

But Boris Johnson said he would revive the M4 relief road proposal - and "provide the Vicks Inhaler to the nostrils of the Welsh dragon".

During Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, he repeated his previous suggestion that the UK government would "unblock the Brynglas tunnels" with a "proper M4 bypass".

But with road building in Wales the responsibility of the Welsh Government in Cardiff, a spokesperson said Mr Johnson could not have a say on it.

'Complete ignorance'

Image caption The M4 relief road was proposed as a solution to tackling congestion on the M4 around Newport

Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts said Mr Johnson had shown "complete ignorance of how devolution works and for the environment too for that matter".

When asked about the prime minister's comments, Mr Hart acknowledged "it is a devolved matter, it is a matter for Welsh Government to do that".

"UK government has said it would provide the borrowing facilities, the ability to do that. But consistently Welsh Government have declined that offer and so we are at that rather stalemate period."

Firm 'made a case for Brexit'

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Simon Hart and other Conservatives have been highly critical of Welsh ministers on the M4

The Welsh Government announced it would not be building the new motorway in June 2019, three months before Ineos revealed its Bridgend production plans.

Mr Hart said in the Commons that this "of course is a Welsh Government deal" and that an "unwillingness" and "inability" to make improvements to the M4 relief road had "influenced the Ineos decision".

Responding later in the Senedd, Mr Skates said: "The fact of the matter is that the M4 decision was made in the summer of 2019 and the Ineos deal was secured in the autumn of 2019.

"In four years of negotiations with the company, not on one occasion was the M4 raised."

During questions on Ineos in the Welsh Parliament, former first minister and Bridgend Senedd member Carwyn Jones said the firm had "made a case for Brexit" and therefore had "an extra responsibility to invest in the UK and not invest in the [European] single market purely because it may be more convenient".

Mr Skates said he agreed "entirely", describing the firm's decision to put its Bridgend plans on ice as "somewhat perplexing".

Image copyright Ineos
Image caption Ineos had said the new Bridgend plant would eventually employ 500 people and produce 25,000 cars a year

"There is no doubt whatsoever that Brexit is doing immense damage to the automotive industry in the economy in general," he said.

Conservative Senedd member Andrew RT Davies, a leading figure in the campaign for Brexit in Wales, said he was disappointed Mr Skates was "trying to blame Brexit for the situation that we find ourselves in".

"Your negative tone today will do nothing to reopen negotiations with that company," he said.

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